Understanding one another in PaB: a cultural perspective

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    Mary Jane Collier wrote a chapter in a book called Multiculturalism from the Margins. Her chapter is titled “Dialogue and Diversity: Communication across Groups”, and deals with dialogue, identity, culture, and meaning. I found many parts of it particularly germane to the context of our discussions in PaB.

    Her premise is that by communicating with others, we come to know who we are separately, and as a part of a larger whole.

    As we engage in dialogue, our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and interpretations of people, things and events begin to unfold. This engagement doesn’t just give us food for thought; it actually presupposes the outcomes of dialogue that work to define how we perceive ourselves – our PaB, and perhaps other (RL?), “self-perception”.

    But it is important to note that in this type of dialogue there is no “universal” meaning, per se; words and other cues connote different things to different people. Not all messages are heard in the same way. We each use our own personal values, beliefs, cultural experiences to interpret those cues. In essence our cultural identity is our “filter”.

    Are we aware of our cultural identities?

    Each of us has multiple identities – different “hats” to wear for different parties – but one is generally more salient, especially in a particular context, like PaB. But there are significant individual differences as to what even these really salient identities mean to each of us. For example, what does it mean to be non-denominational? Or a Buddhist? Or a Christian? Atheist? Note that this is not just discussing particular groups or sub-groups or sects, but rather each individual’s subjective meaning of what it means to them to have that identity ownership.

    Two last thoughts from Collier.

    First, we tend to think that everyone sees us as we “are” (even in a PaB / SL kind of way). The identity we choose to have and portray (our avowed identity) can be very different from how others view us (our ascribed identity).

    Second, all groups are stereotyped and we all stereotype others. This is not a sweeping and damning negative statement, in truth we couldn’t function if we didn’t. The danger lies in not being cognizant of this happening and thus not controlling it when it is unhealthy.

    In sum: thank you Collier for the encouragement towards tolerance, peace, and knowing ourselves, as best we can…

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